The Gates of Paradise: Lorenzo Ghiberti's Renaissance Masterpiece

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In 1452, Florentine sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti unveiled a masterpiece that had been a quarter-century in the making: ten bronze panels depicting intricate scenes from the Old Testament. The monumental gilded bronze doors (each more than 15 feet tall) were designed for the Baptistery in the Piazza del Duomo in Florence. Centuries of admirers have considered “The Gates of Paradise” one of the great masterworks of Western art.

This extensively illustrated book displays the full glory and elaborate details of many of the newly restored bronze panels, the extraordinary work of the conservators and restorers who cleaned the priceless doors. In a series of fascinating chapters, expert contributors capture Ghiberti’s world, his remarkable talent at representing human emotion in rich illusionistic settings, the relationships between Renaissance patrons and artists, and the collaborations and rivalries among artists. Other chapters explore the challenging craft of bronze sculpture, Ghiberti’s casting and finishing techniques, and the painstaking process involved in documenting and restoring the treasured doors. A chronology of Ghiberti’s life completes this lavishly produced volume.   

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Legend has it that when Michelangelo saw Italian sculptor Ghiberti's (1378-1455) doors for the east portal of the baptistery in Florence's Piazza del Duomo-comprising ten gilded bronze panels and standing more than 15 feet high-he dubbed them the "Gates of Paradise." Edited by Radke (humanities, Syracuse Univ.; coauthor, Art, Power, and Patronage in Renaissance Florence), this catalog accompanies exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago (through 10/13/07) and New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art (through 1/13/08) showing three of the door's panels in all their newly restored splendor (they have never before traveled outside Italy and, according to the publisher, they will never again). Several diagrams and 269 color photographs document the doors, their frame, and the restoration process in exquisite detail; Ghiberti's casting method and finishing techniques also come across. Essays by 12 scholars and conservators cover all aspects of Ghiberti's masterpiece. Completing the volume is a chronology of Ghiberti's life. This book updates Richard Krautheimer's classic 1956 monograph, Lorenzo Ghiberti(Princeton Univ.), with new information on Ghiberti's artistic process, designs, and symbolism. Essential for all art libraries and highly recommended for academic libraries.
—Martha Smith

The Barnes & Noble Review
Whether the marvel is a magic trick or an artwork, people always want to know, "How did they do it?!" The Gates of Paradise: Lorenzo Ghiberti's Renaissance Masterpiece, edited by Professor Gary M. Radke, details the history of both the Florentine sculptor's greatest work and its most recent restoration. Ghiberti was precocious in every aspect of his career. Born in 1378, he was only 23 when he won the prize commission to design the door panels for the Baptistery of the Cathedral in Florence. In order to realize this enormous project -- which entailed the completeion of three sets of doors over 50 years -- he created a workshop that trained artists who later earned recognition in their own right, such as Donatello and Uccello. Aware of his own talents, he also wrote the first known autobiography of an artist. At the time the doors were produced, realistic perspective and psychological expressiveness were avant-garde ideas. An early proponent of humanism, Ghiberti wished to achieve plausibility while also imparting an idealized grace and sublimity to the biblical mortals he depicted. Often, each panel was a composition including many episodes of a story, and he would deftly use architectural framing devices and tricks of perspective, such as varying the level of relief of the figures to distinguish the various elementsl thus, the anguish of Adam and Eve is palpable when they are exiled from Eden. The doors have since inspired centuries of artists, including Michelangelo, who dubbed them "the Gates of Paradise." The final portion of the book covers the various processes and experiments (including chemical baths and laser polishing) that conservation scientists used to restore the doors to their original glory without removing the evidence of the hands that originally created them. In explaining how the effects were achieved, the catalog doesn't detract from the marvel but rather engenders even more respect for this stupendous feat of ingenuity. --Victoria C. Rowan
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300126150
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 184
  • Product dimensions: 7.70 (w) x 12.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Gary M. Radke is Dean’s Professor of the Humanities, Syracuse University. He is editor of a book on Verrocchio’s David and co-author of  Art, Power, and Patronage in Renaissance  Florence, among many other publications on Italian Renaissance art.

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